Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With?

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If your child wants to live with you after a divorce, you may assume that the court will grant you custody according to their wishes. If only it were that easy. Depending on your child’s age and the circumstances, your child may very well be able to pick which parent they want to get primary custody. The court may also decide this is not in their best interest or in the best interest of the other parent. 

Today, attorneys are predicting a rise in divorces. As divorces and separations have increased, so have the child custody lawsuits. Usually, children are kept out of divorce and custody cases as much as possible. Choosing one parent over the other can make them feel guilty or cause them distress. 

In the divorce process, deciding which parent your child will live with can be overwhelming. Separating from your child even half the time when you’re used to being together every day can be immensely challenging. Parents are encouraged to co-parent and work together, but that’s not always possible. When it isn’t, the courts will decide, perhaps with input from your child.

At What Age Does a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With

There is a common misconception that a child can choose their preferred parent to live with full-time upon reaching a certain age. Most people believe that the magical ages for children to decide custody are 12,13, abd14. But these ages don’t come with the right to choose a custodial arrangement.

In some states, family laws are rather progressive, and they allow the child to have a say in parental custody. For this to happen, the child must be mature enough to express themselves reasonably. Ultimately, the older a child is, the higher the likelihood will be that the court will determine they are capable of making serious decisions about their own well-being.

Different states have different age limits to which a child’s decision is determinative. There’s no definitive age for a minor to make a sole decision. In Maryland, for example, the court honors a child’s decision if they are over 16 years. In most states, the child can only make this decision once they are 18.

Most times, the judge will work with a lawyer or social worker and allow the child to have a say in parental custody. It’s not compulsory for children to express their opinion regarding custody or visitation. They will only be asked to do so if they want to. 

When Does a Child Get to Decide

A child will choose which parent to live with only if aloof the critical decision-makers agree with the child’s wishes. If the child doesn’t have a preference, joint custody with a solid parenting plan in place may benefit all parties involved. 

Even the youngest child may be clearly bonded more strongly to one parent. One parent may also reside in the neighborhood where the child attends school or has bonded with friends. In these cases, the court may choose to act in the child’s best interest, even if the child hasn’t or cannot state a preference. 

When Does the Child Not Get to Decide

Many of us might wonder what is joint custody and how it will benefit both parties. Sometimes, joint custody may not work for one reason or another. A mediator will come in handy in helping all parties reach a common consensus. Where one or both parties disagree with the child’s decision, the issue will then move to a domestic court.

The judge may not necessarily work with the child’s preference in these cases. Additionally, the child’s choice might not be what they really require. Ultimately, it is the court’s responsibility to establish a custody arrangement that best suits the child’s needs. However, when the circumstances permit it, the child’s input should be considered.

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